So, I'm back in northern Minnesota at my family's lake cabin. I've come here every summer of my life, so to come back from Virginia (after other years from North Carolina, Wisconsin, Nevada, and New Mexico) feels natural, as though I am a migratory species returning to summer breeding, feeding, and stomping grounds. I will only be feeding and stomping this summer, though, as I am sad to say I left a relationship behind two weeks ago, and I'm learning once again about being alone at the end of the work day when you want to share what you've done and haven't done and wish you'd done and hope to do. But so it goes.
The first thing I did when reached the lake a week ago was to walk over to see Luna's grave. My parents and I buried her last August before I returned to Virginia for the start of the school year. I dug a deep hole and laid her curled at the bottom, added a dog bowl and her favorite biscuits for the journey ahead, and then covered her body with two old t-shirts of mine so that she could take my scent along with her. The worst part--the part that pulled heaving sobs from my body--was covering her face with one of my shirts, her face never to be seen again. (And it's funny how that works--she was dead, she wasn't feeling anything, it was me who wanted to cover her body and face with my clothing before covering her with dirt... but that last movement to do so... my parents had their hands on my legs as I lay at the edge of the grave, reaching in.) We took turns covering her with dirt, then covered the graves with stones. I often thought of her grave this winter, as Minnesota experienced its coldest, longest winter in years. When I got here, I walked over and smiled. The woods has already started to grow through and around the grave, with grass and plants and even a tiny oak tree flowing up around the gravestones. Luna isn't alone out there but instead is surrounded by life.
I remember one of the last nights she was alive last summer. I woke late, around 2AM and helped her out to pee. There was a waning gibbous moon over the lake, and the whole night was still and soaked in moonlight. We walked out onto the dock, and I sat and pulled her into my lap. We simply sat there, me stroking her fur, in the moonlight, the lake calm, the sounds of the northern night beginning to rise again around us, surrounding us with life.
I've been thinking a lot about "the ground" lately, as I'm working on a proposal for a new book idea. I know I'll want to tell the story of burying my friend Luna here last summer, how it was so important for me to do so. She was dying of leukemia, but she may have lived a couple more weeks if I'd taken her back to Virginia. Nothing against Virginia, but I did not want her to die there, and I did not want to bury her there. I wanted to bury her here at the lake where we'd returned together every summer in her fifteen years. And now she is in this ground (I even thought for a moment, as I first stood next to the grave last week, of how I could grab the shovel and dig up her body, touch her again, remove those t-shirts and see her face. But of course, not really. She's taken those biscuits and is long gone on that next journey), and she will always be in this ground. She's taken into the ground every memory we have together, like the night we sat on the dock in the moonlight--I think now of her body glowing some from all that moonlight--and her being here makes this ground mean more to me than it already did. I want to think more about this, to explore our relationship to the ground. I think this will be the next book. If you're reading this and want to offer your thoughts, please do.